Season 11 Episode 1 of Parts Unknown is the Anthony Bourdain West Virginia episode. The hour-long feature highlights life in parts of McDowell County.
West Virginia – What’s so special about that?
The episode features Bourdain breaking bread with locals as he moves through the towns of Welch and War. These Appalachian towns are unknown and unseen by most of America.
In the episode and seemingly in the lives that inhabit these places, there is no sugarcoating.
In War and Welch, there arent any slick or fashionable haunts. No tourist traps luring visitors in to buy fancy soaps and jelly. For eyes like mine that grew up in the shadow of New York City, at first glance there isn’t much of anything there.
And yet, there is. You just have to undo your commercial programming and learn to see it.
For me, the episode delivered on showing an overlooked pocket of America. It weaved a picture of poverty, faith, family and simple joy. People there are scrappy, love their families, and have pride in what they do.
In the spring of 2017, I rode through both War and Welch while touring. In my post about the day in Welch, I mentioned:
Secrets you could never know just by passing through.
This episode was particularly poignant because it pulled back the curtain and offered a glimpse into people’s lives. People I could relate to. The lives in homes that I’ve ridden past and wondered about. It wasn’t some faraway place I’ll never see. It was smalltown America.
How to Watch Parts Unknown – West Virginia
The West Virginia episode of Parts Unknown is available on-demand on CNN.